Some temptations can best be overcome by fleeing (2 Timothy 2:22).
Our duty is found in the revealed will of God in the Scriptures. Our trust must be in the sovereign will of God, as He works in the ordinary circumstances of our daily lives for out good and His glory.
Every time we say yes to temptation, we make it harder to say no the next time.
Confidence in the sovereignty of God in all that affects us is crucial to our trusting Him. If there is a single event in all of the universe that can occur outside of God’s sovereign control then we cannot trust Him. His love may be infinite, but if His power is limited and His purpose can be thwarted, we cannot trust Him.
God can restrain not only people’s actions, but even their most deeply rooted desires. No part of the human heart is impervious to God’s sovereign but mysterious control.
The same Christian activity can be either an expression of our own righteousness that we think earns favor with God, or it can be an expression of love and gratitude because we already have His favor through the righteousness of Christ.
So while the Bible asserts both God’s sovereignty and people’s freedom and moral responsibility, it never attempts to explain their relationship.
The war is over. The alienation and divine displeasure toward us because of our sin have been removed. We are no longer objects of wrath. We have peace with God whether we realize it or not. However, to the extent that we understand and believe the truth regarding justification, we will experience a subjective peace – that is, a sense of peace within our souls. We will know that we have been bought from a state of condemnation and the prospect of eternal judgment into a state of forgiveness and favor with God.
There is a vast difference between a struggling faith (Mk. 9:24)…and (a) stubborn unbelief (Mk. 3:3-6).
As we grow in holiness, we grow in hatred of sin; and God, being infinitely holy, has an infinite hatred of sin.
Spiritual disciplines are provided for our good, not for our bondage. They are privileges to be used, not duties to be performed. To take off on a familiar quotation from Jesus, “Spiritual disciplines were made for man, not man for spiritual disciplines” (see Mark 2:27).
Pride, in relation to other people, is comparing ourselves with others and seeing ourselves as superior to them in some way – whether it be in character, conduct, or achievement.
To meditate on the Scriptures is to think about them, turning them over in our minds, and applying them to our life’s situations… The objective of our meditation is application – obedience to the Scriptures.
We need to be careful that we do not add our own man-made rules to the Scriptures. Some convictions that we hold dearly may be derived more from our particular Christian culture than derived from Scripture, and we need to learn to discern the differences. It is okay to have cultural convictions, but we should be careful that we do not elevate them to the same authority as Scripture. So much judgmentalism among Christians today occurs because we do this.
As you read or study the Scriptures and meditate on them during the day, ask yourself these three questions:
1. What does this passage teach concerning God’s will for a holy life?
2. How does my life measure up to that Scripture; specifically where and how do I fall short? (Be specific; don’t generalize).
3. What definite steps of action do I need to take to obey?
This is the way we develop conviction – by bringing God’s Word to bear on specific situations that arise in our lives and determining God’s will in that situation from the Word.
Human morality and submission to God’s law are entirely different in principle, though they may appear to be similar in outward appearance. Human morality arises out of culture and family training and is based on what is proper and expected in the society we live in. It has nothing to do with God except to the extent that godly people have influenced that society. Submission to God’s law arises out of a love for God and a grateful response to His grace and is based on a delight in His law as revealed in Scripture. When the societal standard of morality varies from the law of God written in Scripture, we then see the true nature of human morality. We discover that it is just as hostile to the law of God as is the attitude of the most hardened sinner.
Godliness is more than Christian character. It covers the totality of the Christian life and provides the foundation upon which Christian character is built.
Being under the law is the opposite of being under grace. Because of our sin against the law, being under law implies the wrath of God, whereas grace implies forgiveness and favor. Law implies a broken relationship with God, whereas grace implies a restored relationship with Him. So when Paul said we died to the law, he meant we died to that entire state of condemnation, curse, and alienation from God.
So often we try to develop Christian character and conduct without taking the time to develop God-centered devotion. We try to please God without taking the time to walk with Him and develop a relationship with Him. This is impossible to do.
It is hypocritical to pray for victory over our sins yet be careless in our intake of the Word of God.
Trials always change our relationship with God. Either they drive us to Him, or they drive us away from Him. The extent of our fear of Him and our awareness of His love for us determine in which direction we will move.
Too often today we listen to be entertained instead of instructed, to be moved emotionally rather than moved to obedience.
We must have conviction that it is God’s will that we seek holiness – regardless of how arduous and painful the seeking may be. And we must be confident that the pursuit of holiness results in God’s approval and blessing, even when circumstances make it appear otherwise.
God does deal with our sins, but only in such a way as for our good. He does not deal with us as our sins deserve, which would be punishment, but as His grace provides, which is for our good.
[We insist that God] must surely lead everyone as we believe He has led us. We refuse to allow God the freedom to deal with each of us as individuals. When we think like that, we are legalistic.
Discipline may be either corrective or remedial. It may be sent for the purpose of correcting some sinful attitude or action, or to remedy some lack in our character. In either case, it is administered by our heavenly Father in love, not in wrath. Jesus has already borne the wrath of God in our place, so all adversities that come to us, come because He loves us and designs to conform us to the likeness of His Son.
In…the instances where faith is mentioned (in Matthew 9), the object of faith was in Jesus’ ability to heal, not His will to heal. Today as we pray for the healing of our friends or loved ones who suffer severe illness or disease, we too should believe that God is able to heal, either directly or through conventional means. To say I have faith that God will heal is presumptuous since we do not know the mind of God, but to say God is able to heal is to exercise faith.
The world…is characterized by the subtle and relentless pressure it brings to bear upon us to conform to its values and practices. It creeps up on us little by little. What was once unthinkable becomes thinkable, then doable, and finally acceptable to society at large. Sin becomes respectable, and so Christians are no more than five to ten years behind the world in embracing most sinful practices.
We may say that providence is God’s orchestrating all events and circumstances in the universe for His glory and the good of His people (Rom. 8:28).
[God] is at work in all the circumstances of your life to bring out the good for you, even if you had never heard of Romans 8:28. His work is not dependent upon your faith. But the comfort and joy that statement is intended to give you is dependent upon your believing it, upon your trusting in Him who is at work, even though you cannot see the outcome of that work.
Only one who has a strong desire to be holy will ever persevere in the painfully slow and difficult task of pursing holiness. There are too many failures. The habits of our old nature and the attacks of Satan are too strong for us to persevere unless the Holy Spirit is at work in us to create a desire for holiness. The Holy Spirit creates this desire, not only by showing us our sins, but also by showing us God’s standard of holiness. He does this through the Scriptures. As we read and study the Scriptures or hear them taught, we are captivated by the moral beauty of God’s standard of holiness.
The exercise of inner strength under the direction of sound judgment that enables us to do, think, and say the things that are pleasing to God.
Prayer assumes the sovereignty of God. If God is not sovereign, we have no assurance that He is able to answer our prayers. Our prayers would become nothing more than wishes. But while God’s sovereignty, along with His wisdom and love, is the foundation of our trust in Him, prayer is the expression of trust.
We do not have the ability to enter the kingdom unless the Spirit of God gives us life through the new birth. We are born again, then, by a sovereign, monergistic (that is, the Spirit working alone) act of the Holy Spirit. Then, as a result of that new birth, we exercise the faith given to us, and enter the kingdom of God.
Bitterness arises in our hearts when we do not trust in the sovereign rule of God in our lives.
Uncontrolled temper is soon dissipated on others. Resentment, bitterness, and self-pity build up inside our hearts and eat away at our spiritual lives like a slowly spreading cancer.
We must not allow our emotions to hold sway over our minds. Rather, we must seek to let the truth of God rule our minds. Our emotions must become subservient to the truth.
The object of our faith is not the mere content of the message, but the One whom the message is about.
God never pursues His glory at the expense of the good of His people, nor does He ever seek our good at the expense of His glory. He has designed His eternal purpose so that His glory and our good are inextricably bound together. What comfort and encouragement this should be to us. If we are going to learn to trust God in adversity, we must believe that just as certainly as God will allow nothing to subvert His glory, so He will allow nothing to spoil the good He is working out in us and for us.
The faithful person is one who is dependable, trustworthy, and loyal, who can be depended upon in all of his relationships, and who is absolutely honest and ethical in all of his affairs.
We should take more seriously our responsibility to pray for the leaders of our government that they will make wise decisions. Although we may suspect that some of the more disastrous decisions are evidence of God’s judgment, we do not know that. We do know God has instructed us to pray for leaders. Our duty, then, is to pray for wise decisions, but to trust when foolish and harmful decisions are made.
Our first priority in times of adversity is to honor and glorify God by trusting Him. We tend to make our first priority the gaining of relief from our feelings of heartache or disappointment or frustration. This is a natural desire, and God has promised to give us grace sufficient for our trials and peace for our anxieties (2 Corinthians 12:9, Philippians 4:6-7). But just as God’s will is to take precedence over our will (Jesus Himself said, “Yet not as I will, but as you will” – Matthew 26:39), so God’s honor is to take precedence over our feelings. We honor God by choosing to trust Him when we don’t understand what He is doing or why He has allowed some adverse circumstance to occur. As we seek God’s glory, we may be sure that He has purposed our good and that He will not be frustrated in fulfilling that purpose.
Peace should be a hallmark of the godly person, first because it is a Godlike trait: God is called the God of peace several times in the New Testament. He took the initiative to establish peace with rebellious men, and He is the author of both personal peace as well as peace among men. Peace should be part of our character also because God has promised us His peace, because He has commanded us to let peace rule in our lives and relationships, and because peace is a fruit of the Spirit and therefore an evidence of His working in our lives.
God will never allow any action against you that is not in accord with His will for you. And His will is always directed to our good.
The great God not only loves His saints, but He loves to love them.
This is the amazing story of God’s grace. God saves us by His grace and transforms us more and more into the likeness of His Son by His grace. In all our trials and afflictions, He sustains and strengthens us by His grace. He calls us by grace to perform our own unique function within the Body of Christ. Then, again by grace, He gives to each of us the spiritual gifts necessary to fulfill our calling. As we serve Him, He makes that service acceptable to Himself by grace, and then rewards us a hundredfold by grace.
It seems the Bible goes out of its way to portray the kindness of God in stark contrast to man’s total undeservedness.
Just as the diamonds on a jeweler’s counter shine more brilliantly when set upon a dark velvet pad, so Christ’s redemptive work shines more brilliantly when contrasted with our sin and the consequent curse that was upon us.
Jesus said, “Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33). We must honestly face the question, “Am I willing to give up a certain practice or habit that is keeping me from holiness?” It is at this point of commitment that most of us fail. We prefer to dally with sin, to try to play with it a little without getting too deeply involved.
To be justified means more than to be declared “not guilty.” It actually means to be declared righteous before God. It means God has imputed or charged the guilt of our sin to His Son, Jesus Christ, and has imputed or credited Christ’s righteousness to us.
God’s plan and His ways of working out His plan are frequently beyond our ability to fathom and understand. We must learn to trust when we don’t understand.
Patience is the ability to suffer a long time under the mistreatment of others without growing resentful or bitter.
Because you and I are in Christ Jesus, His glory and our good are linked together. Because we are united with Christ, whatever is for His glory is also for our good. And whatever is for our good is for His glory.
God wants us to be dependable even when it costs us. This is what distinguishes godly faithfulness from the ordinary dependability of secular society.
The so-called sovereign nations of the world are not truly sovereign. They are nothing more than instruments in the hand of God to accomplish His will; sometimes to protect His people, sometimes to open doors for advancement of the gospel, and sometimes to be His instrument of judgment against ungodliness. As God looks down upon the nations that accomplish His purpose, even while rebelling against Him, He sees them as nothing more than His instruments (Isaiah 10:15).
Although drunkenness is a widespread sin in the nonChristian culture of today, I do not detect that it is a major problem among Christians. But gluttony surely is. Most of us have a tendency to overindulge in the food which God has so graciously provided for us. We allow the sensual part of our God-given appetite to range out of control and lead us into sin. We need to remember that even our eating and drinking is to be done to the glory of God (I Corinthians 10:31).
Because peace is a fruit of the Spirit, we are dependent upon the Spirit’s work in our lives to produce the desire and the means to pursue peace. But we are also responsible to use the means He has given us and to take all practical steps to attain both peace within and peace with others.
Faith is not only necessary to salvation, it is also necessary to live a life pleasing to God. Faith enables us to claim the promises of God – but it also enables us to obey the commands of God. Faith enables us to obey when obedience is costly or seems unreasonable to the natural mind.
We mistakenly look for tokens of God’s love in happiness. We should instead look for them in His faithful and persistent work to conform us to Christ.
Perhaps we should stop talking about being “faithful” to have a quiet time with God each day, as if we were doing something to earn a reward. It would be better to talk about the privilege of spending time with the God of the universe and the importance for our own sake of being consistent in that practice.
God did not wait for a change of heart on our part. He made the first move. Indeed, He did more than that. He did all was necessary to secure our reconciliation, including our change of heart. Even though He is the One offended by our sin, He is the One who makes amends to Himself through the death of Christ.
We can distinguish [the] two aspects of our union with Christ this way: Our legal union with Christ entitles us to all that Christ did for us as He acted in our place, as our substitute. Our vital union with Christ is the means by which He works in us by His Holy Spirit. The legal union refers to His objective work outside of us that is credited to us through faith. The vital union refers to His subjective work in us, which is also realized through faith as we rely on His Spirit to work in and through us. Though our union with Christ has two aspects, it is one union. We cannot have legal union without also having vital union. If through faith we lay hold of what Christ did for us, we will also begin to experience His workings in us.
Principles in breaking sinful habits and acquiring new ones:
1. Habits are developed and reinforced by frequent repetition.
2. Never let an exception occur.
3. Diligence in all areas is required to ensure success in one area.
4. Don’t be discouraged by failure.
As we come to Christ, then, empty-handed, claiming no merit of our own, but clinging by faith to His blood and righteousness, we are justified. We pass immediately from a state of condemnation and spiritual death to a state of pardon, acceptance, and the sure hope of eternal life. Our sins are blotted out, and we are “clothed” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. In our standing before God, we will never be more righteous, even in heaven, than we were the day we trusted Christ, or we are now. Obviously in our daily experience we fall far short of the perfect righteousness God requires. But because He has imputed to us the perfect righteousness of His Son, He now sees us as being just as righteous as Christ Himself.
No detail of your life is too insignificant for your heavenly Father’s attention; no circumstance is so big that He cannot control it.
The promises of the Bible are nothing more than God’s covenant to be faithful to His people. It is His character that makes these promises valid.
The word command carries the idea of authority. The most basic meaning of the word is “to direct with authority.” A command does not just give guidance that one may accept or reject; a command implies that the one giving it has the authority to require obedience and the intention of doing so. This is true of the commands of God. As the Sovereign God of the universe, He has the authority to require obedience and He does insist that we obey Him.
Materialism wars against our souls in a twofold manner. First it makes us discontent and envious of others. Second, it leads us to pamper and indulge our bodies so that we become soft and lazy.
We are much more concerned about someone abusing his freedom than we are about his guarding it. We are more afraid of indulging the sinful nature than we are of falling into legalism. Yet legalism does indulge the sinful nature because it fosters self-righteousness and religious pride. It also diverts us from the real issues of the Christian life by focusing on external and sometimes trivial issues.
But what about issues that are not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures – how do we determine God’s will and develop conviction in those areas?…
1. “Everything is permissible for me – but not everything is beneficial” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Question 1: Is it helpful – physically, spiritually, and mentally?
2. “Everything is permissible for me’ – but I will not be mastered by anything” (1 Corinthians 6:12). Question 2: Does it bring me under its power?
3. “Therefore, if what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause him to fall” (1 Corinthians 8:13). Question 3: Does it hurt others?
4. “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). Question 4: Does it glorify God?
Modern Christians, especially those in the Western world, have generally been found wanting in the area of holiness of body. Gluttony and laziness, for example, were regarded by earlier Christians as sin. Today we may look on these as weaknesses of the will but certainly not sin. We even joke about our overeating and other indulgences instead of crying out to God in confession and repentance.
Jesus did not die just to give us peace and a purpose in life; He died to save us from the wrath of God. He died to reconcile us to a holy God who was alienated from us because of our sin. He died to ransom us from the penalty of sin – the punishment of everlasting destruction, shut out from the presence of the Lord. He died that we, the just objects of God’s wrath, should become, by His grace, heirs of God and co-heirs with Him.
I can know if I truly fear God by determining if I have a genuine hatred of evil and an earnest desire to obey His commands.
God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it. It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son.
Only as we reckon on these twin facts – that I am dead to sin and its reign over me and that I am alive to God, united to Him who strengthens me – can I keep sin from reigning in my mortal body.
Our reconciliation to God is permanent and eternal. Because Christ accomplished it for us, there is no possibility it can ever be undone. Though we continue, even as believers, to do those things that in themselves deserve God’s displeasure, we can never revert to a state of divine alienation. For the sake of Christ, God will always accept us. And even when God deems it necessary to discipline us for persistent disobedience, He always does so out of love to restore us to the way of obedience (see Hebrews 12:4-11).
God uses the encouragement of the Scriptures, the hope of our ultimate salvation in glory, and the trials that He either sends or allows to produce endurance and perseverance.
One definition of faith might be “Obeying the revealed will of God and trusting Him for the results.”
We need to call sin what the Bible calls it and not soften it with modern expressions borrowed from our culture.
God is sovereign over people. He will move their hearts to cause them to do His will, or He will restrain them from doing anything contrary to His will. But it is His will, His agenda for our lives, that God will guard, protect, and advance. We must learn to live by His agenda if we are to trust Him.
I fear that all too often Christians may be less humane and considerate than nonbelievers. We think we are standing on principle when in reality we may be only insisting on our opinion.
[We must] pray constantly for His enabling grace to say no to temptation, of choosing to take all practical steps to avoid known areas of temptation and flee from those that surprise us.
God’s law, as a rule of life, is not opposed to grace. Rather, used in the right sense, it is the handmaid of grace. Or, to use an analogy, it is like a sheepdog that keeps driving back into the fold of grace, when we stray out into the wilderness of works.
Aggravating all of these areas (of legalism) is a class of people who have come to be known as “controllers.” These are people who are not willing to let you live your life before God as you believe He is leading you. They have all the issues buttoned down and have cast-iron opinions about all of them. These people only know black and white. There are no gray areas to them. They insist you live your Christian life according to their rules and their opinions. If you insist on being free to live as God wants you to live, they will try to intimidate you and manipulate you one way or another. Their primary weapons are “guilt trips,” rejection, or gossip. These people must be resisted. We must not allow them to subvert the freedom we have in Christ.
God never allows pain without a purpose in the lives of His children. He never allows Satan, nor circumstances, nor any ill-intending person to afflict us unless He uses that affliction for our good. God never wastes pain. He always causes it to work together for our ultimate good, the good of conforming us more to the likeness of His Son (see Romans 8:28-29).